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05.05.13 The Peace we Have in Jesus, John 15.22-29 Sermon Summary

by on May 9, 2013

Jesus doesn’t seem to mind questions. The problem is, his answers aren’t always obvious.

Summary Points

  • John’s questions are our questions, too
  • Answers that are Spiritual and Real
  • Discovering Peace in our Lives
  • Questions for Discussion and Reflection

Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse” is built on three questions. Thomas said, “We don’t know where you’re going; how can we know the way?” Phillip asked Jesus to show them the Father. Then there is Judas’ question: “How will you reveal yourself to us, but not to the world?”

Today we might reframe these questions as: “Are we on the right path?” (Thomas); “Can Jesus really show us God?” (Phillip); and “How do we know we are we really seeing Jesus?” (Judas). I’m reminded of John the Baptist’s question when he had doubts about Jesus: “Are you the one, or shall we look for another?” (Luke 7:20)

Jesus’ answers to these questions, Judas’ especially, has two parts: Spiritual and Real. Earlier in this chapter Jesus tells his disciples that though the world doesn’t see him, he is nonetheless present. Though he himself is absent, the Spirit is near. This prompts Judas’ question: How come we will see this, but the world will not? Jesus says that the Father will send the Holy Spirit.

The point Jesus is making is this: the same God who sent the Son yesterday, is the same God who sends Spirit today. Maybe today Jesus doesn’t seem real to you. But can you think of a time when he was undeniably real? Ask yourself, was the Son here or not? Before you had the questions you have today, was Jesus real to you?

This is why frequent celebration of the Lord’s Table is so important. The bread and the cup are real. You can’t get more real than eating something. And just as real as the bread and cup are, so real is the presence of Christ in the Spirit. This is why Jesus gave us this meal to remember—to remember Christ’s presence, both past and present.

That’s the spiritual part of Jesus answer. But there’s a real one also, real beyond the Table, real beyond worship. In response to Judas’ question Jesus said that those who love him will keep his word. Which word might that be? It’s probably the word of service that we find in the previous chapter. There Jesus washed the disciples’ feet and told them love one another in the same way.

Loving Christ means to love one’s neighbor. Jesus taught that the greatest commandment is to love God, and second is like it, to love your neighbor. (Matthew 22:36-40)

But Christian love of neighbor must be real, not just spoken. James 2:15-16 asks us what good is it to wish well for those who are suffering. Real love alleviates suffering. Romans 12:9 says genuine love helps the needy, blesses our enemies, and lives peaceably with others (among other things—see the whole chapter).

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the parable about the sheep who discover they’ve been living in God’s kingdom all along since they have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, welcomed the stranger, cared for the sick, and visited the imprisoned—that is, by loving their neighbor whom they could see, they loved God whom they could not see (see 1 John 4:20). When we do these things, when we love others, we encounter Christ. Christ is present. Christ is real.

It’s true, we’d rather have Jesus with us as he was with his disciples, but Christ is gone, he is ascended (May 9th is Ascension, see Acts 1). Jesus tells Judas and the others that if we love him, not only will we follow his word of service to others, we will also let him go. To let Jesus go is an act of trust. We trust God to provide even in Jesus’ absence. This is what Jesus is teaching us—that we can trust God in his absence, and to do that we have to embrace the Spirit.

When we let Christ go—trusting God, loving our neighbors—Jesus gives us this promise: we will have peace. He says it’s not peace as the world gives. Worldly peace implies no more conflict, or maybe assurance about future. But this is peace we “understand,” and the Bible talks about a peace that “transcends understanding” (Philippians 4:7). This peace is the presence of Christ by the Holy Spirit now, even in the midst of trouble, even in the midst of questions.

Judas asked our question: How will we see Christ? Jesus’ answer? By letting him go, by trusting God, by embracing the Spirit, and by serving our neighbors.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  • Think about the questions you have about your own spiritual life. Compare them to the questions asked by Thomas, Phillip, and Judas. How do they relate? How do Jesus’ answers to their questions apply to yours?
  • Have you really let Jesus go? Are you still trying to hold on to a childhood faith that no longer answers the questions of adulthood? As an act of loving the Jesus you knew, can you let him go and embrace the Spirit of God in a new way today?
  • How can the perspective, that the reality of the eucharist is intended to remind us of the reality of Jesus’ past presence and Spiritual presence, change your experience of Holy Communion?
  • Who are some neighbors you can serve? And will you do so expecting to meet Jesus?
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